HC notice to Centre on de-freezing Greenpeace accounts

New Delhi, May 18:

The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to the central government on a plea of environment NGO Greenpeace India to de-freeze its international and national bank accounts which were blocked following a home ministry directive last month.

GreenpeaceJustice Rajiv Shakdher sought response from the home ministry by May 26 that challenged the suspension of Greenpeace’s FCRA licence for 180 days and freezing of its bank accounts.

The court also asked the central government counsel to take instruction and inform it whether funds of the NGO’s domestic accounts can be released for its day-to-day running, including for paying salaries to its employees.

The plea argued that the suspension of licence and freezing of accounts were completely “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The NGO told the court that the home ministry’s actions showed evidence of “bad faith” and was an attempt to silence Greenpeace India because of its high profile campaigns in areas like coal mining, air pollution and the use of pesticides in agriculture.

The court also asked three major Indian banks — IDBI Bank, Yes Bank and ICICI Bank — in which the NGO holds accounts, to file their responses on the plea.

Greenpeace has claimed that these banks did not have the right to freeze the accounts without a court order and their actions represent a “breach of trust”.

“The petitioner is unable to meet its salaries, rent, statutory liabilities, such as TDS, provident fund, gratuity payments, and professional taxes, and third party payments,” the petition said.

“Our national bank accounts contain donations from thousands of Indian citizens, who give as little as Rs.350 a month. Because they’re blocked, we have had to scale back our campaigns on things like air pollution and solar street lighting. Our staff and their families are facing an uncertain future,” Greenpeace India said.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich told the NGO’s employees to brace themselves for possibility of a shutdown. He said: “We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight the home ministry’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts.” (IANS)

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